A few months ago I hosted the first Diversify Dietetics meet up in Philly, with the help of another amazing dietitian (HEY Trinique!) and we were super excited to bring light to this topic and to connect with other students and Registered Dietitians in the area that identified as someone of color. So, we contacted a local Philly media to help us promote. Much to my disappointment, one media outlet contacted us back questioning why “not having diversity in dietetics” was a problem? I was disappointed but I turned my attention towards hosting the event, which ended up being amazing.
Fast forward a few months and their comment still really bothers me. You see having diverse people in all fields matter. People connect with people that look like them and know their culture. When it comes to food, the connection with culture is even deeper. About 95% of my clients tell me that they decided to meet with me as their dietitian because I was of color. Because they felt like they would connect with me at a deeper level. They know I would understand what they eat and how they eat. And for Hispanics, the fact that I speak Spanish and can communicate in their native language, well that is a game changer. WHY, you ask? Because communication is key. If you cannot communicate with your medical provider efficiently, you will never understand your diagnosis or how to make changes. And when your provider does not understand your culture, you feel undervalued and ignored.
My biggest pet peeve is when someone with diabetes is told not to eat “white foods or sugar.” this is detrimental advice for anyone, but for a Hispanic that eats white rice everyday, this is life shattering. I get clients that tell me that they either stop eating because they do not know what to eat OR they literally just do not follow any advice and continue to eat everything. This is problematic because the disease then could become uncontrolled and many medical issues could arise. But working with a Hispanic dietitian could totally help this patient out. My job as your dietitian is to explain to you how these foods work and how they affect your blood sugars. My job is not to tell you what to eat, but to help you manage your disease with all foods. And that makes all the difference, especially when I tell them they can eat white rice again. Their eyes brighten and smiles are automatic.
Understanding cultures and people can make all the difference. And making sure that our country has enough dietitians of color to work with all cultures could make all the difference in our countries health.
So to answer that news media's question, having diversity in dietetics makes all the difference when it comes to someone’s health. An Asian dietitian understands Asian culture, a Muslim dietitian understands Ramadan, a Hispanic dietitian understands yuca, platanos, tortillas and rice, and the list goes on and on. The impact that culture and diversity can have on dietetics is so significant and important, the lives that can be changed are in the millions. So yes, diversity matters.